How to fix a water damaged drone?
I hope that when you read these lines, you didn’t crash your drone into the water yet, and the reason you are here, is to know what to do in case it happens to you.
As I said in the post for drone fishing risks, one day your drone is going to crash. And in case you fly your drone next to the water, like at the beach, it might even crash into the water. And when that will happen, I want you to be prepared by knowing what exactly you have to do.
Many drone owners are ashamed to admit that they crashed their drones due to their fault, but to be honest, this is a normal thing and many times, it does not say anything about your flying skills. Sooner or later, I am telling you it will happen.
The one-million-dollar question then will be, what do you have to do (and not do) in this situation? In a situation like this, being prepared is what makes the difference between a drone that will come back to life, to a dead drone.
So keep reading if you want to know how to fix a water damaged drone, and I promise you, it is not complicated at all.
Many people, after crashing their drones into the water, jump right away after their drones. But, hey, stop for a second… Do you know how deep is the water? Do you know if the water is safe? There are several things to consider before jumping to rescue your drone, and your safety must be the first thing.
So think, what will be the safest way to rescue your drone without risking your life. No matter how much your drone cost to you. It does not worth your life.
For example, in this video, this guy crashed his drone into the water, and he was warned several times not to get into the water for his safety only. He, as you will see, didn’t listen, and fortunately, he saved it without getting injured, you can skip to 04:30 of the video where the guy is being explained for the risk in diving to rescue the drone.
Just that you will understand, when you dive to get your drone, you need to make sure that nothing can hook you up underwater – for example in the last video, the trees were a great risk. Of course, there are many other types of risks that you as a rescuer MUST think of before jumping into the water, or even before taking your kayak and go get the sunken drone.
Moreover, assuming the drone crashed into a river or a lake or anywhere where the depth of the water is in your reach, don’t be stressed to jump right away, as there is no difference for the drone if it is 20 seconds in the water or 3 minutes, it got wet already!
So please, please, please, think carefully before you jump to the water to rescue your drone.
This guy, I believed, knew how deep was the water
I have the drone in my hands, what’s next?
Okay, once you have the drone in your hands, you got into the practical part of your drone repair.
Turn off the transmitter
Before everything, it is super crucial for the drone that it won’t get any command or communicate until the problem will be resolved. Otherwise, the drone will try to communicate with the remote control, use it GPS, etc. All of these operations damage the drone.
Taking out the battery
The first thing that you need to do, as soon as possible, is taking the battery out from your drone.
This is relevant not only to drones but also to any other electrical devices like smartphones and etc.
The reason for this is due to the electronics part which can severely damage your drone when they touch the water. Electric parts like ESC (Electric Speed Controller) which are the cables that connect the motors to the flight controller. A circuit in this can cause your motors to malfunction and even burn out.
Drying out the drone
After taking out the battery, it is time to dry out the drone. First, wipe out anything that you can. Then, place the drone in front of a heater. Don’t worry if the drone gets real hot.
Rice, rice, and more rice
After drying the drone, it is time to make sure that there won’t be any moisture inside. For that, we need rice and a lot of rice. Some people use up to 6 kilos of rice, some even more.
What you will need to do is take a sealed plastic bag. Put your drone inside of it, and submerge the drone and its’ battery with rice (the battery needs to be disconnected from the drone even in the plastic bag). Make sure the rice will be covering the entire drone. Seal the plastic bag, and let it sit for 2 days.
Cleaning the drone from the rice
After 48 hours, it is time to open the sealed bag and take out the drone.
You will find out very quickly that as much as it was to fill the drone with rice, cleaning the rice won’t be a simple task. You need patience for that, as it can take you several hours to complete this task.
Turn the drone to every side, to make sure no rice will be left inside.
Testing out the drone
After all the work you have done, It is time for you to check if the drone is okay or not.
First, plug in the battery and do whatever you are used to, in order to fly the drone.
You can take apart the props in the beginning, just to make sure the motors are working properly. And only when you feel they work properly, put the props back again, and try to fly it
Don’t forget that your drone comes with a warranty. So if you are still covered with warranty, and you also think that your drone crashed due to internal failure or fault. You need to contact the manufacture of the drone. They can check the reason for the crash, thanks to the drone’s flight log. A flight log is a file that records everything that happened to the drone. It is like the known black box of airplanes.
If the manufacturer will find that the drone crashed due to this reason, they will need to send you a new drone.
The reason I reminded you about the warranty at this point, and not earlier, is since drying the drone is necessary prior to send the drone to the manufacturer. So all the steps I told you before, are steps you must do anyway.
The drone turns on, but it is not 100% fixed
Sometimes nothing will help and you will notice that your drone is not operating as it should have been.
This can be due to several reasons:
- The drone was in the water for a too long time.
- During the crash, the drone was not only got wet but also some pieces broke.
In this case, you will need to see what exactly is not working properly and decide if you can fix it by yourself.
Don’t rush to deny this. Maybe you are not a technical guy. But, that is okay, neither do I. But there are some good tutorials on YouTube that show you step by step how to replace electronic parts in your drone.
Finding these parts are very easy. You can find anything you need for your drone, from ESC cables, motors, etc.
If you will believe in yourself you will be able to do it.
Here is a great video that shows you how to fix, replace, and install new parts of DJI Phantom drone:
This video is good for you to learn how to open the drone shell and how to remove the camera gimbal in case it is necessary for you. The rest of the video requires more experience with electronics.
You can find more videos that will show you how to replace the motors and other parts of the drone.
Think about that, in case the drone is not working and you do not have a warranty, you don’t have anything to lose. Even if you won’t fix the drone eventually, you still learned how to deal with the drone in case it will happen to you again.
Nothing helped, what’s next
If you tried everything and the drone is refusing the work, well, this is the time to think about a new drone. And it will be a good time to think about a waterproof drone, so it will save you the sorrow of wasting your good money again on a drone that crash again into the water.
But a minute before you check your balance at your bank account, try your best luck with the GoFundMe website. If you are not familiar with it, just go to https://www.gofundme.com/ and start funding to try and get yourself a new drone.
Don’t believe it can work? Well, here is an example of a sunken drone that couldn’t be fixed, and the guy who found the drone contacted the guy who lost the drone and started this GoFundMe raise for him. And after 21 days, they raised for him 1,200$ so he can buy a new drone. Don’t believe me? Look here.
Your second option is just to buy a new drone.
I can only advise you to buy a waterproof drone. Look at SwellPro’s products list, they have great waterproof drones that are ready for every drone mission you have.
How to fix a water damaged drone – Saltwater Damage
Whatever you read till now was relevant incase your drone fell into freshwater. Saltwater is completely a different thing. Salt in general is not good for electronics. And even after you succeeded to rescue your drone, keep in mind that the chances to fix it are very low. And in case its been there for a few hours, the chances are, sorry to say it, are basically none.
The first rule of thumb, after taking your drone out of saltwater is to rinse it right away, for a few minutes, in freshwater. You need to wash out the salt as much as possible. Don’t stop after a minute or two… take your time and make sure, as much as possible, that no salt was left. The primary “enemy” is the salt and not the water. Salt destroys electric circuits.
Following the steps for dumping the drone in rice for a full day will help only to remove the water, but it won’t help when it comes to absorbing the salt. so only after you wash out the salt you can put it in the rice. Keep in mind that your chances are low in this situation.
If you know a lab that can fix drones, I recommend you taking your drone there. Some labs offer ultrasonic cleaning. That can help clean the drone from the salt and dramatically increase the chances of fixing your drone.
Here is a video of someone crashed his Mavic into the ocean, and succeeded to fix it. So, it is not over till it’s over…
Since many people are losing their drones at the water, I do think that a waterproof feature must be a standard for building drones today. And since more people fly their drones next to water, you must know what to do in case it falls into the water.
So until we reach the days all drones will be waterproof, I hope you learned how to save your drone, in case it was water damaged.
And remember, next time to buy only a waterproof drone. 5 years ago, the waterproof drones were not something very popular, and also they weren’t good enough. Today, waterproof drones, like the SplashDrone 3+ and the Cuta Copter EX-1, can do whatever other non-waterproof drones can’t.